Historical fantasy

Historical fantasy

Historical fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, related to historical fiction. It includes stories set in a specified historical period but with some element of fantasy added to the world, such as supernatural events, magic or a mythical creature hidden in the cracks. Often the magic retreats from the world so as to allow history to continue unaltered, as in Lord Dunsany's "The Charwoman's Shadow", which takes place in Spain, but which ends with the magician in it removing himself, and all creatures of romance, from the world, thereby ending the Golden Age. Such fantasies, if they do not have the magic carefully hidden from history, shade into alternate history.

Alternatively the story may be set in a purely fictional world which either strongly resembles a specific historical period or contains elements of history evident in its characters, settings or story, for example George R. R. Martin's acclaimed series "A Song of Ice and Fire", inspired by the Wars of the Roses, and R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing books which draw on ancient Middle Eastern civilizations such as the Persian Empire, Scythia, Hellenistic Greece, and the Crusades yet is set in a purely fictional location. Unlike alternate history, the history contains many elements that are not derived from a specific historical period.

Many if not most works by fantasy authors derive ideas and inspiration from real events, making the borders of this subgenre fuzzy.


When a specific era of history is popular with writers, a subgenre may spring up, such as Celtic fantasy, which includes such works as Katharine Kerr's "Deverry" series, or Teresa Edgerton's "Green Lion" Trilogy. These works are (loosely) based on Dark Ages Celtic cultures. The separate folklore of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland has sometimes been used indiscriminately, sometimes with great effect; other writers have distinguished to use a single source.John Grant and John Clute, "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy", "Celtic fantasy", p 275 ISBN 0-312-19869-8]

The Welsh tradition has been particularly influential, owing to its connection to King Arthur and its collection in a single work, the epic Mabinogion. One influential retelling of this was the fantasy work of Evangeline Walton: "The Island of the Mighty", "The Children of Llyr", "The Song of Rhiannon", and "Prince of Annwn". A notable amount of fiction has been written in the area of Celtic fantasy. [Michael Moorcock, "Wizardry & Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy" p 101 ISBN 1-932265-07-4]

Examples of historical fantasy

The era listed is the location, or source for the setting, for these works.

*C. J. Cherryh's "The Russian Stories": Medieval Kievan Rus' and "The Paladin": China of the Tang dynasty
*Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell": Napoleonic England
*David Gemmel's "Lion of Macedon": Ancient Greece
*Guy Gavriel Kay's "Tigana": Renaissance Italy, "A Song for Arbonne": Medieval Occitania, "The Lions of Al-Rassan": Moorish Spain, "The Sarantine Mosaic": Byzantine Greece, and "The Last Light of the Sun": Viking England
*Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni novels": The Medieval British Islands (specifically, Wales)
*Juliet Marillier's "The Sevenwaters Trilogy": Ninth Century Ireland
*Naomi Novik's Temeraire series: England during the Napoleonic Wars
*Tim Powers's "The Drawing of the Dark": Renaissance Europe, "On Stranger Tides": Early Nineteenth Century Caribbean, and "The Stress of Her Regard": early 19th century Italy
*Delia Sherman's "The Porcelain Dove": Revolutionary France
*Harry Turtledove's "Thessalonica": (Byzantine Greece) and "War Between the Provinces": (American Civil War)
*Gene Wolfe's "Soldier of the Mist" and "Soldier of Arete": Ancient Greece
*Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's "The Saint-Germain" novels: Various eras

See also

*Alternate history


External links

* [http://www.realityends.com/historical-fantasy.html Historical fantasy] Book recommendations at [http://www.realityends.com RealityEnds]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fantasy film — Fantasy films are films with fantastic themes, usually involving magic, supernatural events, make believe creatures, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered to be distinct from science fiction film and horror film, although the genres… …   Wikipedia

  • Historical fiction — is a sub genre of fiction that often portrays alternate accounts or dramatization of historical figures or events. Stories in this genre, while fictional, make an honest attempt at capturing the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy literature — Fantasy Fantasy media Fantastic art Fantasy anime Fantasy art Fantasy artists Fantasy authors Fantasy comics Fantasy fiction magazine Fantasy films Fantasy literature Fantasy television Fantasy webcomics Genre studies History of fantasy Sources… …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy television — is a genre of television featuring elements of the fantastic, often including magic, supernatural forces, or exotic fantasy worlds. Fantasy television programs are often based on tales from mythology and folklore, or are adapted from fantasy… …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy subgenres — The fantasy genre has spawned many new subgenres with no clear counterparts in the myths or folklore upon which the tradition of fantasy storytelling is based, although inspiration from mythology and folklore remains a consistent theme. Since the …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy Imperium — Infobox RPG title= Fantasy Imperium subtitle= An Interactive Storytelling Game caption= Fantasy Imperium Cover designer= Mark O Bannon publisher= Shadowstar Games, Inc. art direction= The Creative Plantation date= 2006 genre= Historical Fantasy… …   Wikipedia

  • Historical novel — An historical novel is a novel in which the story is set among historical events, or more generally, in which the time of the action predates the lifetime of the author. As such, the historical novel is distinguished from the alternate history… …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy of manners — Fantasy Fantasy media Fantastic art Fantasy anime Fantasy art Fantasy artists Fantasy authors Fantasy comics Fantasy fiction magazine Fantasy films Fantasy literature Fantasy television Fantasy webcomics Genre studies History of fantasy Sources… …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy art — is a genre of art that depicts magical or other supernatural themes, ideas, creatures or settings. While there is some overlap with science fiction, horror and other speculative fiction art, there are unique elements not generally found in other… …   Wikipedia

  • Fantasy world — A fantasy world is a type of imaginary world, part of a fictional universe used in fantasy novels and games. Typical worlds involve magic or magical abilities [Brian Attebery, The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature , p 166 7, ISBN 0 253… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”